The world is a great deal bigger than we know, bigger than we can even imagine. This, at least, we understand, albeit at one of those unhelpful meta levels in our culture’s epistemology. It is the task of science and religion, I suppose, to toil away perpetually at the ever present rockface of the unknown. But somewhere between the physics and the metaphysical we ordinary folk can catch occasional glimpses of the extraordinary, the glint of something unconsidered.
I don’t mean to make it sound as though these insights are always numinous or portentous. They may be, of course, but such glorious instants are sadly rare. Here I’m after those observations that illuminate our daily lives just a little, the sorts of things that someone might introduce by saying, “Have you ever thought of it this way, that . . . ?”
This is the kind of modest investigation aimed at by a website I’d like to recommend today. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is:
…a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig. Each original definition aims to fill a hole in the language—to give a name to emotions we all might experience but don’t yet have a word for.
The author’s mission is to capture the aches, demons, vibes, joys and urges that roam the wilderness of the psychological interior. Each sorrow is bagged, tagged and tranquilized, then released gently back into the subconscious.
Because Koenig is “a video guy,” a lot of the emotional ferae naturae are described in brief YouTube films; and there’s a YouTube channel you can subscribe to that promises new episodes every other Sunday. There’s a Facebook page featuring a little bit of the backstory for the various entries in the dictionary. But the main site is a Tumblr, where in addition to video there are textual definitions.
But enough adumbration. Let me give you an example of each type — so that this fillip doesn’t itself become an essay at capturing a thing glimpsed.
n. the moment of realization that your quintessential future self isn’t ever going to show up, which forces the role to fall upon the understudy, the gawky kid for whom nothing is easy, who spent years mouthing their lines in the wings before being shoved into the glare of your life, which is already well into its second act.
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